Pirate Spikers Serve Up New Season
Aug. 24, 2007
GREENVILLE, N.C. - Looking to capitalize on the momentum of two consecutive winning seasons, the East Carolina volleyball team opens its 2007 campaign in Durham at the Duke Invitational as it squares off against No. 18 Duke, No. 13 Purdue and Big South perennial power Winthrop. The Pirates will take on the Blue Devils at 7 p.m. Friday evening in the second match of the tournament before battling the Boilermakers and Eagles at 12 p.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday.
"This is no doubt the toughest opening weekend East Carolina has ever faced, no less the toughest weekend of competition in school history," said Rushing. "I am excited and the girls are excited. We're ready to compete and challenge ourselves right out of the gate. By playing these great opponents, we will be able to access what areas in which we are succeeding and what facets of volleyball on which we need to focus our practices to remedy any problems. If we play with full heart and head, we can pick off one or more of these teams. You can't beat them if you don't play them. This is a fabulous way to start off our season as we prepare for a wonderful Conference USA year."
ABOUT THE PIRATES
THE DISH ON DUKE The Blue Devils head into a new season after posting a 29-4 (21-1 ACC) record in 2006 that included the program's eighth ACC Championship, an ACC-leading 12th trip to the NCAA Championships and winning streaks of 12 and 11 games. Four Blue Devils were named to the All-ACC squad while setter Ali Hausfeld was named the ACC Player of the Year and outside hitter Rachael Moss claimed ACC and East Region Freshman of the Year honors. Head coach Jolene Nagel also received ACC and East Region Coach of the Year recognition for the second time in her tenure at Duke. The Blue Devils have been picked to repeat as ACC Champions in 2007, according to the ACC Preseason Coaches Poll.
"Duke has the name and they have the game to go with it, Rushing stated. "They were a solid team last year and are better this year. It should be a great atmosphere in Cameron Indoor Stadium Friday night. This will be a great setting for our younger players to learn how to deal with this type of competition, atmosphere and pressure."
PONDERING PURDUE The Boilermakers return 12 players, including seven starters, from its 2006 squad, which advanced to its second straight Sweet 16 and third consecutive NCAA Tournament. The team earned a fifth-place Big Ten finish with an 11-9 mark and posted the 14th 20-win season in program history with a 23-11 overall mark. Junior middle blocker Stephanie Lynch garnered numerous honors, including First-Team All-Big Ten, First-Team All-Mideast Region and Honorable Mention AVCA All-America. Head coach Dave Shondell returns for his fourth season with Purdue, sporting a record of 79-52 at the school.
"I've coached against Purdue before, Rushing added. "They were big and strong then and I know they are bigger and better now. This game on Saturday will be a big test to see how competitively we can play in back-to-back tough matches. We will also play hard-fought back-to-back tough matches in C-USA."
WATCHING WINTHROP The Eagles, led by new head coach Sally Polhamus, are coming off a 34-3 record and a fifth-straight Big South Conference championship and NCAA tournament appearance. The program returns three starters, including junior middle blocker Shannon Sitzmann. Sitzmann, a 2006 First Team All-Big South performer, finished last season ranked second in the league with 1.23 blocks per game and a .350 hitting percentage. She ranked among the conference leaders with 3.53 kills per game and notched two 20-kill matches during the season while also being named to the 2006 Big South All-Tournament Team.
"Winthrop has won a lot of conference championships lately, Rushing finished. "We know that we are going to need to work hard one last time this weekend as we play them Saturday night. They have lost some key players from last year and have had a coaching change but I know they are going to continue the success they have earned. This will be a fight to the finish."
ECU will open the home portion of its schedule on Tuesday as it welcomes UNC Greensboro to Minges Coliseum. First serve is set for 7 p.m.